In some cases of suspected lung cancer, the doctor might recommend a biopsy and tumor testing. Here’s why.
Lung cancer can result from any number of different types of mutations, or changes in the DNA of certain cells in the lungs. Given this variation, a treatment that is specifically tailored to the mutation(s) observed in a patient is considered ideal. Thanks to recent advances in technology, such personalized approaches to cancer treatment are becoming increasingly feasible.
Tumor testing involves obtaining a small sample of a patient’s tumor tissue to look for mutations it contains. Doctors can also search for elevated levels of proteins that are known to be associated with specific mutations. In some cases, a treatment is available that has been shown to target the specific mutation identified. Unfortunately, targeted treatments do not exist for all possible mutations that cause lung cancer.
According to the American Lung Association, it’s best to have comprehensive tumor testing, which looks for a large number of mutations and proteins in all the genes known to be associated with lung cancer. This approach, known as a genomic profiling, can help the doctor make better-informed treatment recommendations. For example, the doctor will find out if the patient has a type of lung cancer that can be treated with an FDA-approved targeted therapy. Or, there may be a clinical trial under way involving her type of mutations.
Ultimately, when it comes to determining optimal lung cancer therapy, the more information the doctor has about a tumor, the better.